Avoiding C-Suite Mistakes — Chapter 8: CEO Won’t Let Go

The greatest hindrance in team-building is usually the CEO, who often feels that everything should revolve around him. CEOs unquestionably believe it all begins and ends with them — they put themselves first. Their needs are the most important. They know better than anyone else. They are the best decision-maker.

This behavior is classic: it’s obvious the CEO is putting themselves first. The first indicator is that the CEO is constantly pressing for top recognition. They want to be the star; they want to be recognized and admired. They want to be lauded and acclaimed. Rather than let their C-Suite executives receive the recognition and acknowledgment, they push themselves to the head of the pack. They want to be the ones in the front of the room.

CEOs fail to make stars out of their C-Suite executives because of their need to be the star. Rather than taking care of people, they put their needs ahead of everyone else’s. The cause of this behavior is ego, which can be a trap for highly talented professionals.

Me First

When a CEO reaches the point at which their opinion carries far more weight than anyone else’s, ego comes into play. When this happens, CEOs have reached a place where they stop listening — that is, unless it validates their own agenda. That means they stop learning, and from my point of view, they eliminate any possibility of coaching. The CEO knows best, and they know that that they know best. Their cup is full of themselves, and nothing else can be added.

There is a profound impact on the other C-Suite executives. The relationships usually work for a while, but when it becomes apparent that no one else will be able to “get a line in the paper,” the executives start looking for their next positions. The CEO is only concerned that others will steal their thunder — and they feel that they are the “thunder makers,” deserving of acclaim. These kinds of thoughts are coming straight from the ego, which is the ultimate blinder.

Ego is the Enemy

Ego stops the CEO from processing information. It stops the CEO from seeing the world as it is. Instead of seeing reality, the CEO only sees “The Me Show.” What is the cost of this ego-driven leadership? When the CEO is so blinded by the image of their name on the door, their face plastered across the website, when they subconsciously demand that people praise them, they fail to realize that the leader’s most important job is to bring out the best in other people — not hog all the glory for themselves.

I have worked with a lot of CEOs in my career, and it takes me about two seconds to figure out which ones are ego-driven. Their sentences never start with “we.”

The hardest challenge for a CEO is to remain grounded in spite of their success: this is ego-free leadership. When everyone defers to the CEO, they start believing in their own press releases. They start to believe their own hype: “I am smarter, more charismatic, and more powerful than everyone else.”

It is obvious that ego is a trap for suckers — it is a trap everyone knows exists. It’s not hard to get out of the trap: all the CEO has to do is start being more concerned about the needs and accomplishments of other people.

Recommended reading on this topic: “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday, and “Ego-Free Leadership” by Brandon Black.

To those CEOs who, after reading this section, say to themselves: “That isn’t me, I don’t need to read these books,” — you are the ones who really need it!

The workings of the ego — how it dominates, how it curtails satisfaction, how it judges and evaluates, how it thinks it knows better than anyone else, how it damages relationships — are beyond the scope of this manual. The ego’s algorithm is that it must always be right. Many CEOs are unconscious to the fact that they are purely ego-driven, and don’t realize that ego is indeed their Achilles heel.

Developing a high-caliber, cohesive team at the C-Suite level means you must put the C-Suite executives ahead of yourself — and that might be your biggest challenge.

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